March 18, 2020

FinCEN, data security orgs warn against new coronavirus-related scams

MoneyAs the spread of the novel coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 – continues, consumers and financial institutions are set to face new attempts by hackers and bad actors to steal information, especially as consumers increase their usage of digital payments. CNBC has reported that the use of digital payments is expected to rise during the pandemic due to the growing perception that handling cash could speed up the spread of the virus.

Earlier this week, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) encouraged financial institutions to communicate concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic and remain alert to any illicit financial activity "similar to those that occur in the wake of natural disasters."

In the alert, FinCEN outlined emerging trends in illicit behavior connecting to coronavirus:

  • Imposter Scams – Bad actors attempting to solicit donations, steal personal information, or distribute malware by impersonating government agencies, internal organizations, or healthcare organizations.
  • Investment Scams – FinCEN notes that the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission has urged investors to be wary of promotions that falsely claim the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus.
  • Product Scams – FinCEN highlights public statements and warning letters from the FTC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration to companies "selling unapproved or misbranded products that make false health claims pertaining to COVID-19."
  • Insider Trading – FinCEN has also received reports regarding suspected insider trading in relation to COVID-19.

FinCEN also encouraged financial institutions to read its "2017 Advisory to Financial Institutions Regarding Disaster-Related Fraud"  and review information from other regulators.

Additionally, an article from the research team at ESET echoes FinCEN's claims and outlines similar coronavirus-related scams, including malicious news, charitable exploitation, and unsolicited emails containing advertisements for products to protect against the virus.

ESET urges targets to remain vigilant and avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments received in unsolicited emails or text messages. The NCUA has recently issued an update on its efforts to assist credit unions throughout the coronavirus pandemic, including how credit unions can support members, answering frequently asked questions.

NAFCU is a leader in calling for national data security standards and has urged lawmakers to consider national standards for institutions that collect and store consumer information.

The association will continue to work diligently to equip credit unions with information and resources needed to protect themselves and members against all forms of banking fraud.